Friday, April 18, 2014

What if I Told You that You are Abusing Your Freedom in Christ?

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything."
1 Corinthians 6:12
"So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father". 
Philippians 2:1-11 

 The chain on the door of your house serves little to no purpose when coming between you and your enemies; those who wish to do you harm. It is in reality the dead bolt and the door frame that keep you safe from those who desire to break in and steal from you and do you harm.Which of us with a loved one, home alone, would want that loved one to answer the door to a stranger with nothing for protection but a chain anchored into the wood of the door frame by slender little screws? I would imagine that none of us would. Which of us would leave our children home on their own without a deadbolt on the door? How many of us would be comfortable with that as our sole source of security at night as we sleep?
No the reality is that we want as much security from the threats of the outside world as possible. This is not meant to imply that we honestly believe we are perfectly safe at all times while in our own homes. But it does mean that we take precautions. And if we do not we are idiots. And if we are not taking reasonable precautions for our loved ones, especially when we are not able to be there to watch over them, we are worse than idiots, we are wicked.

So we take those precautions. We make sure our doors are secured. We set the handle lock. We set the chains. We set the deadbolt. Then we, well at least I do this, recheck the doors and the locks. It is because I love my family and I know that even with a firearm beside my bed while I sleep and on my hip while I am awake, the deadbolt gives me some time to respond. I check my widowed mother's doors when I am at her house visiting. I do this to make sure that I know those locks are functioning properly because I cannot be there for her in the same way I can be for my family. She knows that I am a phone call away and can be there before the local law enforcement. She knows this just as my wife and children know that anyone attempting to enter our home uninvited is going to have to come through me. But the truth of the matter is this, I can't be home all of the time. I cannot be just a phone call away for my mom if someone comes to do her harm at all times.

So in light of that reality what would anyone think of me if they learned that I took all of the deadbolts off of my doors and left my wife and children home while I was on duty at night with nothing more than a chain on the door? Honestly? What kind of response would I get? That chain just doesn't offer much by way of security for my family. In fact not only can it be easily snapped out of the wall with a bit of force, a clever person could easily reach inside and remove it with little effort.The end result being that I did not watch out for my family. And all of my protestations that I have a gun and will be there to help as soon as possible does nothing to keep them safe. And if I use the excuse that I just don't feel the need to have a deadbolt because they are so restrictive, I express little to no concern for my loved ones. And if my response to any person who challenges my commitment to my family is to tell them to butt out and keep their opinions and standards to themselves; the only conclusion that can be drawn is that I am an arrogant and moronic fool.

Do I have the freedom and liberty to take that position? Sure. Just like I have the freedom and liberty to take all of those precautions and even more. Sure there is a point where one could be considered to be overreacting. Those overreactions need to be avoided as well. But it isn't often that one could be accused of taking too many precautions when it comes to seeking to protect their loved ones. In all honesty isn't that all of the push back against guns in homes these days? How many do you need? Isn't it a danger to your children? Can't one of them get hurt by a gun? How many do you need really? And our replies are almost always to tell those complaining about our gun possession that we will determine how to best protect our families and that there is no level we wouldn't go to to protect them. In fact we will teach them to be safe with guns and how to treat guns with the proper respect. We will even teach them how to use them. Because sadly in our day and age they will probably need to at some point. But those precautions are far better for them than a weak chain on a door that even the most inept criminal can blow past.

So what I am pushing at here is that there is such a thing as being too close to the edge. There is such a thing as not taking the proper precautions. And there is no place where this is more evident than in the Christian world. These days we are being inundated with message after message that those in Christ have the liberty to do whatever they would like. Of course those who say this would stop short of condoning outright sin such as murder our adultery, or robbing a bank. But they push their liberties to the edge. And they do not stop there. They push their liberties out in to the public square daring others to question their freedom in Christ. And when they are challenged they erupt with accusations of legalism and "pharisee-ism"; often calling those who challenge them immature and stuck drinking spiritual milk.

But here's the deal. They are being selfish. They are actually being immature and proving that they do not understand the scripture references I started with. Yes all things are lawful to them, but is that lawfulness a good idea? What example is it setting for their loved ones? And not just their families, but those who make up the Body of Christ. That is the reality of our freedom. It requires us to be extremely mindful of the Body as a whole. As the old adage goes "With much freedom comes even greater responsibility..."

The Philippians 2:1-11 passage that I listed above pushes on us with this. It presses down on us with a great and wonderful weight. And why? Because God is telling us in this passage that our personal preferences are not even to be on the horizon for us. We are to be so concerned for others and what their needs are that what we need or are free to do in Christ doesn't even appear as a blip in the radar of Christian liberty. But why? Because Christ, the God-man, Second person of the Trinity, did not hold onto what was rightfully His as the Son of God. He didn't cling to it refusing to let it go. He didn't cherish His equality with God as more important than why He was sent to earth.

Jesus wasn't looking out for His own interest when He came. He was about His Father's business and was looking out for the interest of others. This is world changing. This is a paradigm shift for the believer; because it is because of Christ thinking this way that we have been redeemed. This forbids us from getting so close to the edge of sin that we are in danger of going over. Not in a legalistic sense, but because we love others in the Body, and we should love them so much that despite our freedoms in Christ we do not want to lead them right up to the edge of sin. We don't leave them standing alone with nothing between them and the world but a flimsy chain on the door. Why? Because at the bottom of the cliff is death and the enemy that seeks to devour them can break that chain off the door without a thought.

When self-centeredness invades our Christian liberty it is no longer liberty but sin. And that is what I am seeing in the Christian world so much as of late. 
There is this pervasive mentality that my liberty trumps your needs and if that bothers you than too bad...
You need to grow up and mature...
You need to arrive just like I have, so-to-speak...

Brethren may this never be. Just as we would watch out for our families and do what ever was in our power to protect and defend them, we should be doing the same for the Body of Christ. If you wouldn't let your children play on a path with a fatal drop, why would you want to lead the Body to that same edge? And don't be mistaken, when you flaunt your liberty and brag about how much of it you have and what exactly you are going to do with it; you could very well be leading someone to the edge of sin and death.

See, our Christian liberty is much like the chain on the door. It is the last line of defense from the enemies waiting to come in and harm us. It isn't meant to allow us to get close to the enemy and  hang out with him. What we should be doing is setting the deadbolt instead of trusting the chain to protect us. The deadbolt is obedience to God and His commands. The deadbolt is laying down our lives for others. The deadbolt is looking out for the interest of others and setting aside our preferences. Because we love other believers.

These are the same types of precautions as checking and rechecking the locks and the doors. This is the guy who invests in a gun for personal and home defense. Sure some are going to accuse him of overreacting, but his loved ones are at risk and he couldn't give a rip what others think. He wants to protect them. So, just as he teaches his children to respect the gun, he teaches them to respect the law of God. We teach others in the Body to respect the law of God; not to earn His pleasure but because it is good and right for us to do so. Do you think I am crazy? Out of mind? What did King David have to say:

"97 Oh how I love your law!
    It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
    for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
    for your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged,
    for I keep your precepts.
101 I hold back my feet from every evil way,
    in order to keep your word.
102 I do not turn aside from your rules,
    for you have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
    sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through your precepts I get understanding;
    therefore I hate every false way."
Psalm 119:97-104

The law of God, God's word was like honey on his lips and he loved to meditate on it. David was like us, he was not saved by law keeping. He was saved by grace through faith in the promised coming Messiah. And because of that he loved the law of God. This should be the same for us. Our delight in God includes delighting in His commands and those commands are to protect us. They keep the door firmly bolted against the enemies that wish to come in and steal and kill and destroy. The law is like a handgun in the hands of a protective parent seeking to defend his children.

This reality should put an end to the flaunting of liberty. It should humble us; send us to our knees in prayer for those we are to love and watch out for. We should be spending more time teaching others to love the law of God then we do spending time teaching them or calling them to flirt with the edges of sin that lurk on the outskirts of our liberty in Christ.

It is very early in the morning of Good Friday of 2014 as I pen this. And I wonder if we were to spend more time contemplating what Christ endured from the garden, to the cross, and then under the wrath of His Father while He hung there for six hours, if our liberty would seem like such an important thing. It is my prayer that this would touch each of our hearts and compel us to think of others as more important than ourselves and move us to conviction and repentance in whatever places we may need.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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